Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer revealed that he first learned of star driver Fernando Alonso’s shock departure for 2023 via Aston Martin’s press release on Monday morning.
Two-time world champion Alonso has signed a “multi-year contract” to drive for Aston from 2023 in a move that has surprised many in the paddock, with the 41-year-old expected to extend his deal at Alpine.
However, it has since emerged that Alonso wanted a longer life in the terms offered by Alpine, and with no deal in place, the ex-Renault, McLaren and Ferrari driver has opted for pastures new again.
Szafnauer, speaking on Tuesday morning, revealed that he asked Alonso at the weekend if he had signed anything with Aston to which Alonso’s response was “I haven’t signed with anyone else.” Needless to say, the Romanian-American was taken aback by the news.
“That was the first confirmation I got,” said Szafnauer, when asked if he discovered the news of the Aston announcement like the rest of the world.
“Obviously, when we’re in the paddock, there are all kinds of rumors and I had heard rumors that Aston were interested. When you hear that they’re interested, there’s probably discussions that took place, and there’s some other indication that discussions took place, like getting out of the same RV at the same time, all those kinds of things, that I saw.
“But I was sure that even with the discussions, and there’s nothing wrong with exploring, that we were very close. So yes, the first confirmation I got was the press release. I asked the question [to Alonso]. And I was told, ‘No, no, I haven’t signed anything.’ So I was a little surprised.”
Szafnauer added that he has yet to speak to Alonso since the news, as he is “in the Greek islands somewhere” and delved into the details of what Alpine offered him.
“There were just a couple of minor points that were outstanding, when he said his lawyer would get back to us. I thought that was the case,” he said. “And then, before he left, I confirmed with him that we would be signing soon . And he said, ‘Yeah, don’t worry, I haven’t signed with anyone else.’ We will continue with this over the next couple of days.
“We offered a one plus one deal. And we discussed with Fernando that: ‘Look, if next year at this time, you perform at the same level, of course we will take you and it could have gone further.'”
Alpine is now looking for a driver to partner Esteban Ocon next season, with reserve driver and 2021 Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri as the front-runner – with Szafnauer saying he spent Monday “putting off a bunch of calls from other potential drivers.”
“Oscar and his camp are ‘assessing their options’, whatever that means,” added Szafnauer, formerly in charge of Aston before joining Alpine ahead of the 2022 season.
Amid rumors that Piastri is in talks with McLaren, Szafnauer said: “There are some considerations going from a reserve driver contract with options to becoming a race driver contract. I’m not aware of what pre-agreement he has with McLaren on anyone at all, but I’m hearing the same rumors as you. But I know he has contractual obligations to us, and we have to him.”